Today’s News & Commentary — October 5, 2017

Published October 5th, 2017 -  - 10.05.174


On Tuesday, a House of Representatives bill to narrow the definition of joint employer passed out of committee in a party-line vote.  The Save Local Business Act would limit employer liability under the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act to only those entities that “directly, actually and immediately” exert “significant control” over the terms and conditions of a worker’s employment.  That amounts to a reversal of a 2015 ruling from the National Labor Relations Board, which held that a franchisor or general contractor is liable as a joint employer if it has indirect control over the terms and conditions of employment or if it reserved for itself authority to exert control over terms and conditions.  There is no companion bill in the Senate, and prospects for passage look dimmer there.

Journalists arrived at the LA Times for work yesterday to find letters calling for unionization on their desks.  This is the latest effort in an organizing drive that started in late 2016.  The NewsGuild-CWA, which represents analogous workers at the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, reports that a majority of LA Times newsroom workers have already signed cards supporting representation by NewsGuild.  Tronc, the Chicago-based company that owns the LA Times, has distributed anti-union flyers and conspicuously coached managers about discouraging unionization.  120 miles away, the San Diego Reader muses about how unionization at the LA Times might impact the San Diego Union-Tribune, also owned by Tronc.

Reveal News exposes an uncertified rehab-through-labor program that receives inmate-workers from court diversion programs.  At Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery (CAAIR) in Oklahoma, recovery takes a back seat to chicken processing.  Inmate-workers do hard, unpaid work.  An inmate-worker profiled in the article was sent to CAAIR without a substance abuse problem because the judge thought his work ethic was lacking.  He was hurt in a brutal accident and has been denied workers compensation on the theory that he was a client in rehab, rather than an employee at work.

The Wall Street Journal relays two recent studies that anticipate the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly jobs report.  Payroll processor ADP finds that private-sector hiring generally grew less than expected in September, perhaps due to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  Reviewing a different data set, the Institute for Supply Management finds that non-manufacturing work grew substantially in September and is now at its highest level since 2005.

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